Defending the crown
Tri Pen Ice begin defense of AAA league title
The Tri Pen bantam AAA Ice are only a couple games into their season and already they can see a difference in the league.
And, that difference is something every league in the world strives for.
“We haven’t played everyone yet, but we can see there is a bit more parity in the league,” said head coach Nelson Bennett.
“It’s great for the league. Everybody is a little bit closer together.”
Parity is a bit of a buzzword when it comes to sports. All leagues want it, but very few are able to attain it.
It’s something that the league struggled with in its first season. Tri Pen (48 points) were 44 points better than the last place Central IcePak ( four points). The Ice were 37 points better than fourth place Western.
That appears to have changed this season. Where last season you could pretty much put a check in the win column against the likes of Central and Western, that isn’t the case this season. Just two weekends ago, the Ice needed overtime to put away Central.
Although, they haven’t played Western yet, Tri Pen feels like everyone in the league is getting closer together when it comes to talent and team play.
“There are not a lot of gaps in the league,” said Bennett.
As of Friday, the Ice have four regular season games and had a preseason tournament under their belts. The season is still incredibly young and players are still learning their roles on the team.
However, the Ice coaches feel like the team is progressing nicely as the season gets longer.
“I think we’re about where we thought we would be,” said Bennett. “We feel we’ll be right there.”
The Ice return 10 players from the team that captured the league championship in its inaugural season. However, the players they’ve added either competed at the AAA peewee level or at the provincial level.
Several players were on the Tri Pen team that won the Atlantic championships two years ago.
Last year, the team overwhelmed their opponents with sheer brute force and a constant barrage that featured all four lines. While the depth is still there, they’re bringing a different type of game.
“It’s a completely different unit,” said Bennett. “We’re going back to being built for speed. We do have some depth and size.”
Dawson Mercer, Reilly Mayne, Shailynn Snow, Lucas Russell, Ethan Crobsie and Riley Petten are just a few of the key players on this year’s squad. Others, like David Hibbs and Braeden Carlson, are sure to contribute more and more as the season goes on. Struggles with practice Ice time is at a premium in many centres, so much so that AAA teams can have a hard time finding time to practice.
It means any growing together has to happen during a game and can leave little time to iron out the kinks before the next contest.
“We don’t feel like we’re where we should be,” said Bennett. “We’ve had trouble getting practice time.”
The players that make up this year’s version of the Ice are a group that has knowledge of both winning and losing. They’ve won the big games, but they’ve fallen short sometimes too.
That all lends itself to how they handle certain situations and it’s something not lost on their coach.
“This group has experience winning and losing,” said Bennett. “They know they like winning more.”
Tri Pen AAA bantam Ice goaltender Riley Petten and the rest of his teammates are looking to duplicate the success of last year’s squad.